Healthcare technology must be developed with staff in mind, says study

The NHS must take views of staff "much more seriously" when implementing new IT, according to the author of a new study.

Technology must be designed to fit with healthcare staff to ensure new systems work, according to a new study by the Economic and Social Research Council's E-Society Programme.

The study, which surveyed 200 healthcare workers, looked at how staff such as clinicians and managers were using IT resources in their day-to-day work.


National Health Service


National Programme for IT


University College London

The study looked at several different uses of digitisation with libraries as well as how new technology could be successfully implemented.

"Most delightful thing was that in the first couple of cases, there was a huge resistance to new technology," she said. "But then in the third one, it was taken up and embraced. It's largely down to organisation."

Bringing a clinical librarian into the team helped as well. She said one clinician told her: "I tried [to use the technology] because I knew even if I didn't succeed, I could ask the clinical librarian."

Organisations which didn't have such in-house expertise suffered. Another healthcare staff member told her about how frustrating it was to not know how to properly use new technology: "It's like being given a Rolls Royce and only being able to sound the horn."

The NPfIT is taking a top-down approach, by implementing technology to enforce policy changes, she said, advising a more evolutionary approach. "Understand what people are doing, and then design technology to fit with that," she said. "That doesn't mean it everything has to fit current existing practices, but carry forward existing good work to the new way of doing things."

"You need to find out why people work they way they do, and find out their values and practises, before bringing in technical solutions which undermine those values," Blandford said. "If you devalue their skills, you'll get resistance."

For example, Blandford said all clinicians value expertise. Systems which undermine that value, such as standardised checklists which don't work for specialist situations, won't work.

And any technology which doesn't fit into a clinical environment will not be properly used by the very people it's meant to help. "A lot of people were kind of subverting the technology," she said, by putting passwords on public computers or moving hardware into locked offices.

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